DETROIT (WXYZ) — More and more women continue to come forward with allegations against R. Kelly, but one of his reported victims will never get to share her story. Still, WXYZ is learning new information about efforts made decades ago to expose allegations of impropriety.
Aaliyah Haughton would have been 40 years old this week had she not lost her life in a tragic plane crash in 2001. The singer who grew up in Detroit and was known as the “Princess of R & B,” released hits that topped the Billboard charts, and earned Grammy nominations.
“She was very much a talent,” said LaMar Lemmons, a Detroit politician who used to work as the youth director of the Inner-City Subcenter.
While youth director, Lemmons teamed up with Aaliyah’s uncle and her parents who worked at another community group called Operation Get Down. They hosted talent competitions on the city’s east side.
“She used to win all the local talent shows on the east side,” Lemmons said.
Lemmons says there were rumors and tabloid articles about an inappropriate relationship between recording star R. Kelly and Aaliyah, but no one wanted to believe it. Then LifeTime aired a six-part docuseries called Surviving R. Kelly in early January.
The documentary shared the stories of women who say Kelly abused them and exposed allegations of sexual relationships with young teens, including Aaliyah when she was only 14 and 15 years old.
Kelly responded to ABC News through his lawyer. He denied ever having a sexual relationship with anyone under the age of consent. He also claimed Aaliyah tricked R. Kelly by claiming to be older than she was.
The response comes despite old videos on Youtube in which Kelly makes statements showing he knows exactly how old Aaliyah was at the time.
“Mr. Kelly took advantage of her from my perspective, because she was far too young to be wed,” Lemmons said.
So, how did he get away with it and continue to be a star? A source told Action News to go to the Oakland County Probate court to review Aaliyah’s file. When we did, we found one attorney back in 1996 tried to investigate this disturbing alleged relationship.
“I started doing research and finding things,” said George Cushingberry Jr., a retired attorney.
In the 1990s a judge appointed Cushingberry to represent Aaliyah as guardian ad litem in her conservatorship case. It was in a case aimed at overseeing her finances because she was a minor making a large amount of money. Cushingberry’s job was to make sure no one took advantage of her financially.
When he heard she had gotten married in Chicago, he went there.
“I thought, could any of her money be missing,” Cushingberry said.
He obtained her marriage license and other documents.
“It showed and said that somebody said this baby was older than she was, and she should get married. I didn’t know who Robert Kelly was, I hate to admit it,” Cushingberry said.
Action News obtained copies of some of the documents he submitted. He says he expected outrage and action in defense of Aaliyah. Instead, he says Aaliyah’s family seemed outraged at him in court.
“(Her family said), you told the judge what? How did you find out,” Cushingberry said.
He added that he was told not to submit his report, and that it was off topic. He was told to focus on making sure her tax returns were correct. However, he submitted some of his evidence anyway but his actual report as of now is not in the file, although it shows there was a report made in a case register of actions.
Action News called the judge on the case. He reviewed the more than 20-year-old file. He says it is hard to say what happened to those documents because the public has access to the files.
“When the judge told me to just go ahead and finish once I got the tax returns, I did as I was told,” Cushingberry said.
Cushingberry says when he saw the Surviving R. Kelly special he couldn’t help but wonder if other women could have been protected.
“I would have liked more outrage from the family itself,” he said.
Tragically Aaliyah never got the chance to speak out for herself. In 2002 her plane crashed in the Bahamas after recording the music video "Rock The Boat" from self-titled album.
Her mom on Twitter has called the allegations of the inappropriate relationship between Aaliyah and R. Kelly lies that harm her legacy.
Lemmons says in his opinion, her legacy is safe.
“Her talent speaks for itself and she is clearly a victim," he said. "Now other people’s legacies, if these allegations are true – R. Kelly’s legacy is severely damaged by these allegations."
According to reports, Sony Music has dropped R. Kelly from the label following the airing of the Lifetime docuseries.